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Is Kanna legal? The psychoactive succulent Sceletium tortuosum

Is kanna legal

Is Kanna legal? The psychoactive succulent Sceletium Tortuosum

Sceletium tortuosum, also known as Kanna, is a succulent plant native to South Africa and Namibia that has been used for centuries for its mood-enhancing properties. Recently, it has gained popularity as a natural alternative to prescription antidepressants and anxiety medications. However, as Kanna is such a powerful plant, you may have questions about Kanna’s legality, the various laws and regulations surrounding Kanna and what you need to know if you're considering working with it. So, is Kanna legal? Let's find out.

Kanna as plant medicine

Plant medicine refers to collaborating with plants and plant-based substances for their healing and sometimes entheogenic properties - meaning their ability to help you shift into an expanded state of consciousness.  Kanna with its psychoactive (not psychedelic) properties has been used for centuries by indigenous Bushmen and Khoi of South Africa and Namibia for various purposes, including as a mood enhancer, stamina builder and pain reliever. 

The use of Kanna as a plant medicine is not solely based on its pharmacological effects but also its cultural and spiritual significance. Kanna was used by the Bushmen and Khoi during negotiations and gatherings due to its ability to ease tension and create feelings of peace and harmony. It was also used in celebrations and social events because of its ability to open the heart and promote emotional openness and empathy. The Bushmen would take Kanna in high doses during trance dances as a tool for connecting to their ancestors and the spirit world for healing and divination.

In many indigenous cultures, healing is not only individual-based, but includes coming into a sacred and reciprocal relationship with plants, animals, ancestors, the land and cosmos. For the Bushmen and Khoi, Kanna is considered an ally and a teacher in this process.

Therefore, Kanna is a plant with medicinal properties and cultural and spiritual significance involving a deep and holistic relationship between the plant, the individual and community. There is much that indigenous peoples around the world can teach us about healing and thriving that modern humans have lost touch with. It is important to honor and respect their wisdom and knowledge surrounding using Kanna and other plant medicines.

Exploring the effects: what does Kanna feel like?

While Kanna can have a range of positive effects on mood, energy, focus and more, it's worth noting that the subjective experience of using Kanna may not be very intense or noticeable. Unlike some psychoactive substances that can produce strong alterations in perception or consciousness, Kanna's effects are more subtle. They may manifest primarily as physical sensations such as tingling or warmth or a greater level of mental and emotional well-being.

In other words, if you expect to feel Kanna in a dramatic or obvious way, you may be disappointed. However, that does not mean you won’t notice an effect.  If you pay attention to your mood, energy levels, sleep, libido, stress levels and other aspects of your mental health and emotional state, you may notice positive changes both immediately and over time with the regular use of Kanna. These subtle shifts can lead to powerful transformation and subtlety can be an important teacher.

It's also important to note that individual responses to Kanna can vary depending on factors such as dosage, route of administration and personal biology, so it's always a good idea to start with a low dose, be mindful of how you're feeling and build from there.

Is Kanna legal?

Kanna is legal in most countries, including the United States. One exception to this is in the state of Louisiana where the consumption of mesembryanthemum species (like Kanna) has specifically been prohibited along with other gentle plants like blue lotus and damiana.  Kanna is not considered a controlled substance or a prescription drug, and it can be purchased online or in some health food stores.  

Legal status: Kanna vs. kava kava vs. cannabis

Laws and regulations regarding these substances can change frequently. They also vary depending on the specific product or form of the substance. Therefore, it is always advisable to check local laws and regulations before using or purchasing any of these substances.

Kanna, kava kava and cannabis have different legal statuses in various countries. Here is a general overview:


In most countries, including the United States (except in Louisiana), Canada and much of Europe, Kanna is legal. It is not regulated or controlled in the U.S.  Woot!

Kava kava

The legal status of kava kava varies by country. It is legal in most countries, including the United States, Canada and much of Europe. Due to concerns of liver toxicity, many countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Norway, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom have placed regulatory controls on kava. 


The legal status of cannabis also varies by country. In some countries, such as Uruguay, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand and Canada, cannabis is legal for recreational use. Many countries have adopted a policy of decriminalization to make simple possession a non-criminal offense (often similar to a minor traffic violation). Others have much more severe penalties such as some Asian and Middle Eastern countries where possession of even small amounts is punished by imprisonment for several years. In other countries, such as the United States, it is legal in some places, but illegal in others. Legal status in the US also depends on whether it is for medical or recreational use on a state by state basis.  Under federal law, cannabis still remains illegal in the United States.

Kanna safety and benefits

Kanna is a plant that's safe1 to ingest. The alkaloids in Kanna, such as mesembrine and mesembrenone, interact with the brain and body in various ways. Here are some of the benefits of Kanna:

  1. It boosts serotonin levels2, positively affecting mood and decreasing anxiety and stress3 and helps people feel more connected and compassionate towards themselves and others.
  2. It can aid in deep mental, emotional and bodily relaxation.
  3. It can help boost energy levels without overwhelming the mind and body (see footnote 2).
  4. It can improve problem-solving and cognitive function4
  5. It can enhance sleep quality.5
  6. It may have potential medical benefits such as neuroprotective and neuroregenerative properties that could help protect against cognitive decline due to aging or other illnesses such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.6

It's important to note that individual experiences may vary. It's always recommended to get your Kanna from a reputable source with transparent alkaloid content (if an extract) and consult with a healthcare professional before trying any new supplement or plant medicine. 

Experience the KA!leidoscope of benefits

Kanna has a long history with the Bushmen and Khoi of South Africa and Namibia, and its legal status, safety profile and potential health benefits make it an increasingly popular plant medicine. By being mindful of your unique experiences with Kanna, you can gain insights into how this plant medicine may impact your mental, emotional and physical well-being. 

At KA! Empathogenics, we have harnessed the power of Kanna in a synergistic formulation with other life-giving plants to create our signature, daily-use Kanna Chews, and Kanna Tincture, which provide all the benefits of this amazing South African plant in a convenient and all-natural form. Explore the KA!leidoscope of possible benefits of KA! Kanna supplements today. 

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Do not use Kanna or KA! products in conjunction with Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs), Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), Norepinephrine and Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors (NDRI's), Benzodiazepines or Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants without medical supervision by a qualified healthcare professional. If you are currently taking prescription medications or have any pre-existing medical conditions, please speak with your doctor or healthcare professional before using Kanna or KA! Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read here or on the website.

Disclaimers: Any content in this article and the KA! Empathogenics website is for educational and product information purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Information and statements regarding herbal supplements in this article and on the website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

1Schifano, F., Orsolini, L., Duccio Papanti, G., & Corkery, J. M. (2015). Novel psychoactive substances of interest for psychiatry. World Psychiatry, 14(1), 15–26.

2Harvey, A. L., Young, L. C., Viljoen, A. M., & Gericke, N. P. (2011). Pharmacological actions of the South African medicinal and functional food plant sceletium tortuosum and its principal alkaloids. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 137(3), 1124–1129.; Olatunji, T. L., Siebert, F., Adetunji, A. E., Harvey, B. H., Gericke, J., Hamman, J. H., & Van der Kooy, F. (2022). Sceletium tortuosum: A review on its phytochemistry, pharmacokinetics, biological, pre-clinical and clinical activities. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 287, 114711.

3Terburg, D., Syal, S., Rosenberger, L. A., Heany, S., Phillips, N., Gericke, N., Stein, D. J., & van Honk, J. (2013). Acute effects of sceletium tortuosum (zembrin), a dual 5-HT reuptake and PDE4 inhibitor, in the human amygdala and its connection to the hypothalamus. Neuropsychopharmacology, 38(13), 2708–2716.; Manganyi, M. C., Bezuidenhout, C. C., Regnier, T., & Ateba, C. N. (2021). A chewable cure “Kanna”: Biological and Pharmaceutical Properties of Sceletium tortuosum. Molecules, 26(9), 2557.; Carpenter, J. M., Jourdan, M. K., Fountain, E. M., Ali, Z., Abe, N., Khan, I. A., & Sufka, K. J. (2016). The effects of sceletium tortuosum (L.) N.E. br. extract fraction in the chick anxiety-depression model. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 193, 329–332.

4Brendler, T., Brinckmann, J. A., Feiter, U., Gericke, N., Lang, L., Pozharitskaya, O. N., Shikov, A. N., Smith, M., & Wyk, B.-E. V. (2021). Sceletium for managing anxiety, depression and cognitive impairment: A traditional herbal medicine in modern-day regulatory systems. Current Neuropharmacology, 19(9), 1384–1400.

5Luo Yangwen, Wen Jing, Kanfer Isadore, Yu Pei, Patnala Srinivas. Sceletium Tortuosum: Effects on Central Nervous System and Related Disease. Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences. 2020 Jun; 10(6): 151-160; Bennett, A. C., Van Camp, A., López, V., & Smith, C. (2018). Sceletium tortuosum may delay chronic disease progression via alkaloid-dependent antioxidant or anti-inflammatory action. Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry, 74(4), 539–547.; Manganyi, M. C., Bezuidenhout, C. C., Regnier, T., & Ateba, C. N. (2021). A chewable cure “Kanna”: Biological and Pharmaceutical Properties of Sceletium tortuosum. Molecules, 26(9), 2557.;

6Luo, Y., Shan, L., Xu, L., Patnala, S., Kanfer, I., Li, J., Yu, P., & Jun, X. (2022). A network pharmacology-based approach to explore the therapeutic potential of sceletium tortuosum in the treatment of Neurodegenerative Disorders. PLOS ONE, 17(8).

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